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County is asking for $2 million to jump start long-desired project

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AZTEC — San Juan County is seeking federal funding to plan and design a railroad spur connecting to the Interstate 40 corridor in McKinley County.

The County Commission unanimously approved applying for a Better Utilizing Investments to Leverage Development, or BUILD, grant earlier this week. These federal grants can provide up to $100 million per state. There is $1 billion available nationwide for transportation infrastructure projects.

Last year, a single New Mexico project received funding.

This grant application comes just months after the county signed a memorandum of understanding with the Navajo Nation to collaborate on a railroad project.

The county is seeking $2 million, according to County Manager Mike Stark. The county is hoping the project receives a favorable reception from the U.S. Department of Transportation.

“Ultimately, who we’re having to make the pitch to is the federal government,” he said during the May 5 County Commission meeting.

The county contracted with Santa Fe-based lawyer Germaine Chappelle to file the grant application and will pay her up to $6,000 for services related to the application.

The county has been looking to build a rail spur for years, and officials say the ability to transport cargo out of the area by freight could spur economic development.

 “I want to applaud our staff for moving forward with this project,” Commissioner Jim Crowley said prior to making the motion to approve the grant application.

Hannah Grover covers government for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4652 or via email at hgrover@daily-times.com.

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